I Dons Want To Miss A Thing

Kev Neylon
10 min readMay 7, 2024

A bit of Aerosmith lyric mangling for our last home game of the season.

Here it is — The Playoffs. A first for Crawley Town. Victory in the last home game of the season saw us grab the final playoff place, and today is the first leg of the semi-final against the Milton Keynes Dons. It hasn’t been a quiet ten days since that win against Grimsby Town. The usual post-match curry at The Downsman had a change of venue, as The Downsman is closed for refurbishment until the end of May. The refurb I can understand (get rid of the furry lightshades etc.), but whoever thought of the timing needs a kick up the arse. Missing the last home game of the season seemed silly, but with a home playoff game, and both legs of the playoffs being televised, they will be missing out.

The Sunday night saw Helen and I go to the Crawley Town end of season awards ceremony at Lingfield Park, and they had a different kind of horsey / Orsi to the ones usually found there. It was a good night and something I’ve already written about.

Then came Tuesday and the start of the ticket sales. I wandered down to the ground Tuesday lunchtime and it took and hour in the queue before getting tickets. Being able to work from home and flex to do the hours at other times of the day helped. The queue kept moving though, which by all accounts is more than the phone lines were managing to do. Wednesday was calmer, only for Thursday to be mental again as general sales started. Queues were mental, phone lines were mental, and the website packed up and fucked off for most of the day until all seats and the south terrace tickets had sold out. Queues dispersed only for the north terrace tickets to go on sale forty minutes later.

Friday saw the last lot of one hundred north terrace tickets on sale, plus the away leg tickets went on sale for the season ticket holders. The queue when we got there at nine was back to the player’s entrance and it took nearly an hour to get tickets, and it wasn’t long before the final first leg tickets sold out. There were not separate queues for the two sets of tickets, which wasn’t helping matters. Spotted Crawley nicked my photo to show the queue on their Facebook page.

Talking about missed opportunities, there did seem to be one in the club’s car park. With all the queues all week, it would have been the perfect spot for a mobile fast-food van to set up. Teas and coffees, sausage and bacon baps, chip and burgers, and anything else. A captive audience in the queue. The club could have made some money as well by charging them for the pitch. Or was that just my stomach thinking?

Then came the rain. Noah would have been busy. The pitch was declared unplayable, and the game was moved from the Bank Holiday Monday at 3pm to the Tuesday night at 7:30pm. There was a lot of moaning about the pitch not being covered when they knew rain was coming. But it really wouldn’t have made any difference. I live a ten-minute walk away from the ground, and in the nine years I’ve lived where I have the little front garden has never flooded before, but this was the state of it at 10am, and it stayed like that until well into the late evening.

It may well be out first playoff appearance, but the MK Dons have been here five times before at various levels. And they have gone out at the semi-final stage every single time. It would be nice if we could help them keep that particular streak going.

We played them at home back in August in our second home game of the season and we won by my perennial favourite prediction score of 2–1. The return fixture at their place came between Christmas and New Year and they won that one 2–0 which Scott Lindsey and many watching suggested was not a fair reflection of how well we played.

But none of that matters now. All that does is these two games, and the opportunity to make it to Wembley.

I am happy as the rumours that we would be producing a programme for our home leg happened to be true, with pictures of it being shared on the club website on Sunday. It did mean that I made my way to the ground even earlier than I usually do to make sure I got myself one.

It also was a chance to take some pregame photos. The TV gantries are up as the game is also live on the so-called necessary evil of Sky Sports. We have two neighbours with us again, with Clare and Lynn joining us, which I’m hoping is a good luck charm, as the other games they have attended of the last couple of years have ended with home wins for Crawley.

I got a programme, four quid for twenty pages, not terrific value for money, but better than nothing, and not as error strewn as the ones we had last season, although, somewhat disgracefully, there was nothing about the MK Dons in the programme. Somewhat ironically, they were watering the pitch pre-kick-off.

Not only were the Sky cameras set up in various places in the ground, but the centre circle was covered by a big advert for Sky Bet.

New banners were unfurled before kick-off across the front of the south terrace.

MK were in an all-white kit, and we hadn’t even kicked off before there a was a red smoke flare going off in the south terrace. MK get a first minute corner which takes them at least another minute to take before they waste it. Corey Addai is coming a long way out his goal to clear it, and his second one is caught by the MK keeper and booted back, the striker takes it round Addai, but his shot is brilliantly cleared off the line by Will Wright and the follow up is saved by Addai.

We break down the left and Liam Kelly swaps passes with Adam Campbell on the edge of the area, takes a step into the area and fires a shot into the back of the net and four minutes in we are leading 1–0. Smoke flare number two quickly follows.

A corner follows, swung in, and cleared, but Campbell picks the ball up and his shot is saved, and then cleared. It is a bit nervy. A pass from Addai out to Jay Williams nearly ends in disaster, and not long after an overhit back pass has Addai scrambling to stop an own goal, but there is an outrageous piece of control, before he skips over a desperate lunge from a striker before clearing.

At the other end Klaidi Lolos is causing his own usual brand of chaos, and feeds Danilo Orsi who gets a shot off that goes just wide. We work the ball into the box a couple of times, but just can’t seem to get it to fall for someone to get a shot off. A nice ball is worked to Orsi and his shot from outside the box is just tipped over the bar and on to the top of the net. The corner is headed straight at the keeper by Laurence Maguire from point blank range and cleared.

Harry Forster is giving the ripping the left back a new arsehole, and after skinning him again draws a booking. The MK captain takes Campbell out about a week after the ball had gone, but somehow escapes a booking. Orsi gets a shot that is saved, but the flag goes up for offside.

Liam Kelly is chopped down on the left wing and Wright fires the free kick into the box where Williams stretches out a leg and gets a touch on it to steer it past the keeper and as we reach the end of normal time in the half, we lead 2–0.

I was too busy celebrating the goal to see how many added minutes went up on the board, but two minutes were played, and we go into the break 2–0 up.

We have a steady start to the second half and work a chance to Forster on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot is just over. Maguire gets a booking for an innocuous challenge in midfield. MK get a shot from the resulting free kick, which Addai saves. At the other end a Wright long throw ends up with Lolos, whose shot is blocked, as is Wright’s follow up effort. Forster is taken out again, and another MK player goes into the book.

There are a couple of substitutions made, with Campbell and Forster coming off to be replaced by Ronan Darcy and Kellen Gordon just before the hour mark.

MK have a break, but their striker puts it wide trying to curl it around Addai. We attack and Darcy gets the ball in the right corner of their penalty area and shoots, it looks like it takes a deflection on the way to looping over the keeper and into the net and we lead 3–0. Wow.

Dion Conroy gets a booking for kicking the ball away in midfield. The free kick from MK gets to their striker, but the shot is easily saved by Addai. MK have a spell of possession. They work it to the absolute tool wearing the number eighteen shirt and his shot flies high over the KRL Logistics stand to a chorus of ironic cheers, and that is the only ball loss of the game.

At the other end Darcy has the ball again just outside the box and tries to chip the keeper, but it hasn’t quite got enough pace on it, and the keeper manages to get to it. MK have a corner, which Addai collects, but he gets clouted by a stray knee in doing so and gets some treatment.

Jeremy Kelly is substituted, with Nick Tsaroulla coming on to replace him. Another Wright free kick causes chaos in the box, there are a couple of efforts before the ball is bundled over the line. But the flag is up on the far side for offside.

MK get a shot over the bar. Then run the ball out of play and their number eighteen boots the pitch side microphone in frustration. It’s his best shot of the game so far. We make another substitution, with Orsi leaving the field to be replaced by Ade Adeyemi for the final five minutes plus added time. Of which there are six minutes.

We pick up another booking for kicking the ball away, but it is telling that the referee didn’t book an MK player for doing the same thing just a minute before. Lolos goes on another of those mazy runs where you think he’s lost the ball half a dozen times, but he still has in the box, but his pass is cut out when everyone was screaming for him to have a shot.

The full-time whistle goes, and we have won 3–0. It is a great result. But it is only a job half done. Yes, there is cautious optimism going into Saturday’s second leg, but nothing to take for granted. Think Peterborough last year giving up a 4–0 first leg lead to miss out.

The crowd was announced as 5,564 with 675 away fans, and the atmosphere was electric. The official man of the match was announced as Jay Williams. All in all, that was probably out best home performance of the season and saved for exactly the right time. More of the same on Saturday please.

Tickets are purchased, train tickets are booked, hotel is secured. Milton Keynes here we come.

Come on you reds.

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Kev Neylon

Writing fiction, travel, history, sport, & music blogs. Monthly e-zine with all kinds of writing at www.onetruekev.co.uk. All pictures used are my own.